Starting a Job Search? Begin with the Basics.

As a career coach I have reviewed, critiqued and edited countless resumes. The best ones sell the candidate and are backed up with verifiable facts; the worst read like job descriptions that have been cut-and-pasted. The latter type of resume – a bland list of duties and responsibilities, neglects to include important highlights and significant accomplishments that are of great interest to a prospective employer – and can help get a foot in the door. Want to improve your chances of getting your resume past the screener? Here are a few tips.

Grab the reader’s attention. When writing your cover letter, make your first sentences sing. Avoid bland clichés. Show your personality.

Always use spelling and grammar checks before submitting your resume. A resume containing errors says, “I don’t really care about this job to make a perfect presentation,” and may ruin your chance for getting an interview.

Word selection is key. One client sprinkled the word “ensure” liberally throughout his resume.  The dictionary definition of the word is to “make certain that [something] shall occur or be the case.” After explaining to him that using the word “ensure” was not the best word choice, he replaced each instance of “ensure” with an action word which more clearly made his case for the job.

Stress outcomes. A client’s resume provided a laundry list of job responsibilities but not many of his most relevant accomplishments were included. I suggested he select three problems he was tasked with solving, the actions he took, and the result of those actions. Was cost effectiveness enhanced through his creativity and initiative? Was a new process or procedure created as a result of his efforts? It helps to use either the acronym PAR: problem, action, result, or CAR: circumstance, action and result when describing examples of where you have added value in your current position. After several rounds of revisions my client landed a position for which he is well suited.

Tailor your resume to fit the job. Read the job description carefully. Be realistic in assessing whether you have the right skills and experience. Include highlights and accomplishments that are most relevant from your current position or from a previous position. Show the employer what you will bring to the table.

 Keep good records. It is useful to keep a journal in which you write all pertinent information on your work history. Include dates, places of employment, your titles, functions, projects and project results. Specify functional areas in which you have worked, such as finance, human resources, marketing, etc. When you need to update your resume simply sort your journal by function and use those notes to craft a cover letter and resume for a specific position. After years of work, your journal will showcase your accomplishments, and make resume writing an easier task.

Follow these basics and you will find your search will lead to the right job for you.

Linda Luciano, M.B.A., Ed.D.

Dr. Linda Luciano, is President and Coach of CareerCoachingbyLinda. She has successfully coached clients seeking employment and clients re-imagining their careers. You can view her website at

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